Local parties react to last week's borough council elections
There are many new faces on Merton's council after last week's election saw Labour retain control, although with few Councillors than the last administration.
Council Leader Stephen Alambritis (left) has today (May 11) announced plans to promote two new people onto his Council cabinet.
St Helier Councillor Kelly Braund takes over as Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, replacing Katy Neep - a Councillor in Wimbledon’s Abbey ward, who didn’t stand for re-election.
Figges Marsh Councillor Mike Brunt takes on the tricky position of responsibility for environmental cleanliness, with contractor Veoila under fire for the state of some of the borough's streets, after Ross Garrod also didn't stand for re-election.
Labour secured 34 of the Borough's 60 Councillors, with 47% of the vote - a slight drop from the 49% it received in 2014. Overall turnout in Merton was 41% - identical to the figure from four years ago.
The local Liberal Democrats were celebrating after they were the only party to secure an increase in the number of Councillors - to a record six Councillors - by increasing their share of the vote to 15%. They won all three seats in West Barnes and two of the three seats in Wimbledon's Dundonald ward.
Paul Kohler (left) , aged 59, was elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Wimbledon's Trinity Ward with a result that saw the Lib Dems jump from 4th in 2014, winning the seat with a 23% increase in the percentage of the vote.
He made headlines for leading a legal challenge against the Mayor of London contesting his decision to close Wimbledon Police Station. His crowd-funded campaign has been successful in putting the closure on hold, with the case due to be heard in the High Court next month (5-7 June).
His motivation for the campaign dates back to an incident in 2014, in which he was brutally attacked by a gang on his own doorstep. Mr Kohler only survived the attack thanks to the bravery of local police officers, who were able to respond within eight minutes to his daughter's 999 call due to the close proximity of Wimbledon Police Station.
He said: "I am humbled by the support I received from the residents of Trinity. I want to thank everyone who voted for me or supported my campaign, and assure each and every constituent that I will repay their faith by working tirelessly as their councillor.
"I stood for election as I wanted to be able to make a difference in my local community, and to stand alongside Trinity residents in putting them at the heart of the decisions that affect our locality. With a strong Lib Dem presence now on Merton Council we will be able to push even harder to fight the closure of Wimbledon Police Station.
"I am delighted to be one of a record six Liberal Democrats to have been elected to the council. Starting from today, we will give a Fresh Start for Merton.”
Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council, said: "I’m a businessman and I think it’s important to encourage talent. Kelly is an outstanding young Councillor with new and fresh ideas and Mike has long experience in local government of providing decent services even when money is tight. With independent surveys of residents showing the council has never been more popular, and Labour getting twice as many seats as any other party, it’s now time to get on with the job, and start to repay the people of Merton for the endorsement they have given us.”
Councillor Mike Brunt said: "I’m passionate about keeping our streets clean, but after eight years of government austerity the money available has been cut to the bone. That’s why I’ll be overseeing a new bin system in line with most of the rest of Britain, to bring an end to split rubbish bags, deliver cleaner streets and drive down inefficiencies by sharing costs with neighbouring boroughs."
A spokesman for Merton Conservatives said: "We fought the election on a manifesto to regenerate the borough, stop crime and anti social behaviour, and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. We made strong gains in Abbey and Cannon Hill, where residents elected Conservative candidates after widespread dissatisfaction with the Labour administration.
"Whilst we were unable to break through and take control of the council, the Labour vote share fell following another wasted term of drift and poor management. The Conservative Group will continue to hold the administration to account and ensure the best for the people for the borough."
May 11, 2018